This Sunday, Jazmine Sullivan will perform at the third annual Urban One Honors tribute show, honoring women who are leading the change. The show will feature and celebrate women who have made extraordinary strides in business, media, health and politics, leading to impactful change in the Black community.
It’s only fitting that Sullivan who writes and sings the stories of modern Black women, with themes of sisterhood and sexual freedom would take part in this event.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Sullivan about rest, her craft and how the women of the tales have been received by the public. See what she had to say below.
MN: You’re kind of known for taking these breaks in between your projects. I was wondering do you feel anxiety when you’re on these breaks or do you think, ‘Whenever I come back people will be ready for me?’
Jazmine Sullivan: When I first decide to take my breaks, I don’t feel anything. I feel like it’s something that I need and I have to do what’s best for me. But the longer that it gets, depending on how long it goes—and for me, the pattern has been years. I do start to feel it after a while. I think it may be time to come back and I do get a little bit of anxiety, wondering if people are still going to want to hear from me. I never feel like overly confident and secure that people are still waiting for me. So there is a little fear and anxiety that comes with starting again.
MN: I think Black people are starting to have more conversations about the importance of resting, especially when you are a creative person.
Jazmine: Oh yeah definitely. I’m an advocate for taking breaks for your mental health, taking breaks just because you feel like it, really. It’s your life and you have to just do what’s best for you. A lot of the times, everybody—especially Black people, successful people feel the pressure to keep going. ‘You’re in this position, you better keep at it because you don’t know if it will be taken away from you.’ But there is so much power in a break, so much power in rest, in breathing, and listening and stillness. You have to realize that there’s power in that.
MN: Mariah Carey talks about this all the time and I think the same is true for you. People are so impressed with what you’re able to do vocally that they don’t realize you’re writing your songs as well. Do you think you get enough credit as a songwriter?
Jazmine: No, I don’t think a lot of people even realize it. I don’t even know if people care to know either. But it’s something that I do because it’s just a part of who I am, how I do music and my artistry. I try not to get too caught up in whether people know or not. It’s who I am. I have to express myself that way.
Even if I wanted to get a song from somebody, it just feels so different in my body to sing a song from somebody else’s perspective rather than mine. It’s something I have to do.
MN: I saw you came from a line of writers. When did you realize writing was so important to your artistry?
Jazmine: I think when I was around 12 or 13. I was working in the studio and up until then, my mom wrote a lot of my songs. She was a big part of me working. So she would write them and I remember being in the studio, trying to write. I kept trying and she kept encouraging me. After a while, I started getting good and I just liked the process of putting my ideas down and them coming out in a song.
MN: I know that you and Issa Rae mentioned collaborating on a visual project for Heaux Tales. Is that still in the works?
Jazmine: I think that we both really, really, really adore each other and really, really want it to happen. So I think that’s amazing. It’s just about scheduling at this point. Issa is shooting “Insecure” right now and I’m doing a bunch of things. We really want to do it. We’re keeping close contact and trying to figure out when we can come up with the idea and actually put it down. I’m still hoping that it’s going to happen. And I know she wants it to happen so everybody just keep praying, praying for us.
MN: You kept saying that Heaux Tales wasn’t an album, it was an EP. Why didn’t you want to call it an album?
Jazmine: I struggled a lot with the writing process of Heaux Tales. I was going through writer’s block really when I was coming up with it. And I didn’t know if it was enough material for an album. I knew it had been a long time since I’ve been around and when I come out with an album, I want people to get their money and time’s worth. I didn’t feel like it was a lot. But I didn’t realize as much as I loved the tales, I didn’t know everybody else would love them as much.
I knew they were important that’s why I thought to have them on there. But I didn’t know everybody would receive them so well and it would feel like it was a full project. So I was happy that people got it.
MN: Have the women featured in the tales been able to keep their anonymity?
Jazmine: Thankfully, everybody who heard the project loved everything that the tales had to offer. So people are looking out for them and inviting them into forums to speak. So it’s really wonderful. I know how great my girlfriends are so it’s great to see other people want to hear what they have to say.
MN: You mentioned that the pandemic helped a lot of people come to know you and your music. How do you think that happened?
Jazmine: I think people just aren’t moving around like they used to. It’s not a lot of distractions. It’s not a lot of things you can do, so you have time to listen to an artist and their work. If you see somebody has an online show, you’re going to click it because you don’t really have anything to do. People are getting introduced to a lot of things pre-COVID you wouldn’t have the time for or even be thinking about.